Styling a corkbark black pine, ‘Taihei’

Here is a corkbark black pine, Taihei, that I bought about 4 years ago. Here is a shot of the tree in ’09:


Part of the tree’s development is here:

After a bad ’10 growing season (candle-pruned in June, and it didn’t rebud), and strong ’11 and ’12 growing seasons, it was time to start making order out of the chaos that was the last couple years of growth.

I started by thinning the needles and selecting buds. The next step was to determine the best front (fortunately it looks good from 2 sides, which makes styling a bit easier). I used the side that had been the proposed back for the last 3 years because it showed a more interesting trunk line.

Former front:


New front:


Move primary branch down using a guy wire, and spread out other primary branches with wire:


Corkbark pines are brittle, so even thin branches were wrapped with raffia prior to wiring:


Remove too-heavy apex:

And reduce too-heavy upper branch:

What’s that wrap you ask? Parafilm. It stretches, is photodegradable, and sticks to itself. It serves the same purpose as raffia, and more. When I, uh, aggressively move a branch, sometimes it’s good to wrap it in some Parafilm to help it recover. It has many other uses…maybe the topic of another post…

After pruning:


Spread out remaining apex shoots:


What’s next? The tree arrived in a 5-gallon can, and I slip-potted it into the present 7-gallon can in ’09. It’s nowhere close to root-bound, so it will likely stay in the can another year. It will definitely be worked into a bonsai pot in ’14. The present height is 27″ tall, so it was reduced by about 5″. If anything, I will twist the upper trunk about 30 degrees clockwise, to compact the top and lower it just a bit more.

About the cultivar Taihei? It’s a winged corker, whose wings begin as fissures, and eventually split and begin to spiral outward from the trunk and branches. Cork takes decades to mature, but from the photos, it looks like it’s worth the wait. The buds are white and strong. It produces buds readily at the base of this year’s candles, as well as at the tips. Needles are slightly thinner, longer, and paler than the species, but it seems like they can be reduced over time. The one time I summer candle-pruned it, the Taihei did not throw new candles, but rather just set buds for the next year.

Here is a screen shot showing some mature Taihei cork from an article I compiled several years ago:


6 thoughts on “Styling a corkbark black pine, ‘Taihei’

  1. Can we see a photo of the other side of the tree as it is now? Just curious, and I miss seeing those roots from the second photo…

  2. Coming along nicely Brian. Beautiful cultivar! Though being more brittle and such a large trunk, how much will you be able to twist and compact the tree further?

  3. Thanks for the info. I bought two of this in Japan, both mame, and already with very strongly developed bark, thick and full of fissures. Both are less than 10cm high, with a trunk of over 3 cm. Someone told me that this pines dont live long, and are difficult to keep. I did not ask in Japan my master since I bought them after I left school. Taisho en did not have any at the nursery. What is your experience about this pines compared to the normal black pine. Is there anything I should worry about?

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